Holiday Favorites, Snacking

Hide & Eek Boutique Halloween Cookie House

Today I spoke with Tom in cusomter relations at Taret’s Corproate office in Minneapolis, MN, regarding these adorable Chocolate Halloween House Cookie Kits pictured below. I have excellent news for you friends! It’s a nut free cookie house! Chloe and Carter are going to lose their minds when I bring this out at the end of the month for us to assemble!

Allergens: Wheat, egg and soy.

May contain: Milk.

Tom went above and beyond and sent a note out to the production crew to make sure that there was no chace of cross contact with nuts in the facility. He knew that most DIY cookie houses were made in shared facilities, thus the “may contain” statement for most other kits. Each Christmas we have a hard time finding a Gingerbread House Kit, and it looks like we might just move that tradition over to halloween if we can find these kits to be 100% nut free.

I’m waiting on the email from Target – and I will post it here. In the mean time, here are a few pictures – make sure you head over to Target and get one! I got the last one today at my local Hilldale Target. They are online!

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Mom Things, School Safe List, Snacking

Safe Snacking Box

Can you believe it?! In just 24 hours the kids will begin their FIRST DAY of the 2018-19 school year. This year we will have a 2nd grader and Kindergartener. They are both so excited. Backpacks are packed, lunch boxes are out – and with all of the excitement comes the hyper organization mode that I go into! It’s meal prep, list making, planner highlighting time!

But first, yesterday we took to our nutfreemomblog insta for some quick pics that that I will share here of us building out the annual nut-free box for Chloe’s classroom. This box ensures that she ALWAYS has a safe snack at school. Our #1 rule is NO EATING SHARED TREATS, unless they have been pre-approved by Mom or Dad. We have been doing this since the end of 4K when a treat was shared (chocolate based) and Chloe had an anaphylactic reaction at school and had to be rushed to the ER in an ambulance.

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Chloe chose an array of safe snacking for her box this year. Treats include:

  • Made Good Mini granola packs – Costco
  • Hostess Ding Dongs – HyVee
  • YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks – Amazon
  • FreeToBe SunCups – HyVee
  • Annie’s Rice Krispie Treats – HyVee
  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Bar – HyVee

We label the box clearly, talk with the teacher about where to store it, and use it as often as needed. There are pleny of treats, so Chloe enjoys sharing with classmates as needed.

Have a great start to the school year – we are all currently battling head colds, fingers crossed a day of rest and lots of fluids helps us kick this bug!

Target find of the week – $5 for those first + last day pics! It’s chalk so I can use it for both kids tomorrow 🙂

 

Snacking

Panera Cookie Remake

Dining out is difficult when you have food allergies. Especially at Panera. Panera is a big no-no in our nut-free house. Which is hard because I LOVE it. Panera’s fast, healthy options are so tasty, they are perfect for busy Moms on the go.

However, for my daughter, this place is very risky. The chance for cross-contact in their kitchen is high. They use all sorts of nuts in their salads and the make-line area is very open, offering little to no menu options to be deemed as “safe” here.  Their bakery items have a warning, “Many of our products contain or may come into contact with common allergens, including wheat, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish and shellfish.” And even more details here.

However, when we are in a pinch, and this is the ONLY option, I have allowed two things from Panera.

  1. Kids macaroni and cheese
  2. Tomato Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ve always done this in PERSON and have watched the prep area make the food. If I ever feel like this is not a good idea, Chloe eats an Enjoy Life (Always in my purse, always) granola bar until we can find something else. Not every restaurant is great at handling food allergies. So why risk it.

Last week I had a chance to eat lunch with a good friend at Panera and ordered something new for the first time in a long time. Usually when I Panera, it’s a UPICK2, greek salad and panini or black bean soup.

This time, I tried a pasta dish called Baja Mac N Cheese. Basically it’s the kids mac n cheese with pico de gallo over the top with avocado. For 530 calories I was full for 5 hours, and I only had the kid size portion. This dish was so good I wanted to remake it. But I did not. YET.

Instead, I was super naughty and ate a giant cookie that I usually never order since I don’t want to make my daughter feel bad. But since she wasn’t with me, I splurged on the cookie. Which was AMAZING.

Lets make sure the cookie gets the attention it deserves.

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

The Kitchen Sink Cookie is my new favorite cookie. I’m not even sure I like a plain old chocolate chip cookie as much as I LOVE this cookie.

Kitchen Sink Cookie

Kitchen Sink Cookie Recipe

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, browned
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur is nut-free)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. sea sat, and more for sprinkling
  • ¾ cup broken pretzels, and more for on top (Rold Gold)
  • 1 and ½ cups caramel bits, and more for top (I used Kraft brand)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, and more for on top (Enjoy Life Brand)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees and prepare your baking sheets
  2. To brown the butter: In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, whisking as it melts, foams, bubbles, and eventually little brown bits form and it turns amber. Immediately pour into your mixing bowl, be sure to use a spatula to scrape all the little brown bits into the bowl (they are full of wonderful flavor).
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together for a couple minutes, then add the vanilla.
  4. Next add the eggs and beat until the are well incorporated.
  5. Add the baking powder, baking soda, ½ tsp. salt, and about a third of the flour. Mix slowly, add another third of flour, mix, and add the last of the flour until just combined. Do not over mix the dough.
  6. Fold in the pretzels, caramel bits, and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
Large Cookies
  1. Scoop out very large balls of dough (¼ cup size) and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving plenty of space in between (plan on doing multiple batches.) Add more broken pretzel pieces, caramel bits, and chocolate chips to the tops of the dough balls to preference. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  2. Bake 13-15 minutes (this will vary, according to the size of your cookies), until golden around the edges. Do not over cook! Remove and allow to set up and cool on the sheet for 5-10 minutes. Then, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Side note: I do not like huge cookies, so we use a small ball scooper, looks like an ice cream scooper.

Special thanks to Mel & Boys Kitchen Blog for this recipe. I am so grateful + happy to have this amazing recipe in my book now!

 

Snacking

Lite Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

I fully intended on blogging tonight about my failed recipe disaster, minus an oven fire. You see, any creation that comes out of a kitchen with two wild animals roaming freely is bound to end in disaster, eventually, if not regularly. I regularly mess things up in the kitchen when I’m cooking / baking, mostly because I’m half responding to the random MOM, MOM, MOM, MOM questions buzzing in my ear. The point is not to dwell on it, then just eat it or throw it out and move on…to McDonalds.

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Fortunately, luck was on our side tonight. We were multitasking ninjas and decided it was a splendid time to whip up a lighter version of our favorite Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, among other things. The recipe below is what we made. It looks soupy so make sure you have a drip pan below your 9 x 13 baking dish, and let it set up /cool after you’re done baking it.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Filling

  • 8 cups chopped rhubarb; I used 6 stalks and have no idea how many cups that came out to be, but it wasn’t a lot.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pound strawberries; I used about 8 cups of strawberries since I was short on rhubarb. The point is, just use up all your strawberries, fill your baking pan 3/4 full with berries and rhubarb. This does not have to be exact science.
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (I didn’t tonight since I did not have a lemon)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Topping

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp, not melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups quick oats / rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350* and grease a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. in a large bowl, combine all of the “filling” ingredients and combine well.
  3. Pour the “filling” into the baking dish and set aside.
  4. In another bowl, combine the “topping” and mix well with your hands. It should be a little clumpy, no need for a pastry blender. Clumps will bake out.
  5. Sprinkle evenly the “topping” over the “filling” and put into oven.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, check on it.
  7. Bake for additional 10 minutes or until oats are slightly browning and the juices are bubbling on the sides of the crust.
  8. Be sure to bake with a lined + rimmed drip pan under neath.
  9. Enjoy!
  10. Serve with whip cream, ice cream and mint leaf!

*This recipe uses 2 cups less sugar and 1/4 cup less flour and + 1 cup additional oats than the original recipe. It’s much less cake like, and has more oats for fiber.

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Enjoy strawberry season! It’s short, so google your nearest farm, and get out there! It’s so fun. If you don’t have time to use them all up, rinse, hull and freeze in zip top bags for a month.  Or put them into zip top snack size bags for lunches and freeze; half frozen berries are the best snack in the summer (also makes it easy for morning smoothies if they are pre-portioned).

Mom Things, Travel

Olbrich Botanical Gardens – Madison, WI

June, the beginning of summer in the mid-west and it is always a busy month in our household. It’s usually the last week of school, followed by the beginning of pool season, backyard play times, neighborly hangouts and the one big event I still help plan, Olbrich Garden’s Rhapsody in Bloom! This fundraiser is important since it helps keep the gardens fee for the public to enjoy. Yes, Olbrich is amazing + gorgeous + free!

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What is Olbrich Gardens?! It is a botanical garden that sprawls 16 acres with an array of paths and stone trails to stroll. It is host to the only Thai Pavilion in North America, which was a gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Thai Government and the Thai Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. UW-Madison has one of the largest Thai student populations of any U.S. college or university. Olbrich is continuously voted #1 on Trip Advisor for being the #1 attraction in Madison, WI. It overlooks beautiful Lake Monona + is directly across from the new Olbrich Bier Garten.

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Olbrich has brought me peace and happiness on some of my hardest days. It is home to some of my favorite memories of my family; from picnics on the great lawn to the train show + blooming butterflies, Olbrich has been my place to go from reflection to celebration. Over the past 10 years, I have really gotten to know this place and the people that make it so beautiful. It really does take a village to maintain this luscious space, and they work extra hard in June to make sure the gardens are in tip-top shape for this grand reveal of the Rhapsody in Bloom. This event is held anually and is the PEAK of the garden blooming. Breathtaking is probably the most accurate word used to describe its beauty.

This year’s event was held on June 16 (the hottest day of the year so far in WI) and the theme was Ebb & Flow.  It was a water / nautical twist that incorporated mermaids through out the gardens, motorboat races, steel drums, games, themed cocktails & amazing catering from the delicious and well-known Underground Food Collective. The presentation of the food was gorgeous; from the taste to display, Underground nailed it.

While I did not confirm nut-free options for food allergies since my daughter was not attending (its adults only), we did not have nuts in any of the main dishes. There were many gluten free options as well, making this event + catering “allergy friendly” and easy for many to enjoy.

I’m so grateful for Olbrich and this hidden gem we have here in Madison. If you haven’t visited Olbrich yet, put it on your list. Even in winter, the Conservatory is open and helps with those winter blues! What a wonderful event – I’m excited to see what next year’s theme will be!